Money Minute: Propane Shortage Heats Up Prices; Small Cars Prove Less Crashworthy

The current round of extreme winter weather is once again threatening to bust the budget of many consumers.

Natural gas prices are soaring and propane is in short supply in some areas -- meaning the cost to heat our homes is spiking higher. In the futures market, natural gas prices soared 10 percent on Tuesday. As for propane, more than two dozen states are facing supply shortages. That's sent prices soaring by as much as 50 percent in some areas. About 12 million households use propane to heat their homes.

Meanwhile, crude oil prices are also on the rise as stockpiles decline at the same time that worldwide demand is beginning to pick up.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is giving a failing grade to many of the smallest cars on the market. Ten of the 11 subcompact and minicars tested received poor or marginal ratings. Only General Motor's (GM) Chevrolet Spark earned an "acceptable" rating. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%This test involved sending the cars into a barrier at 40 miles an hour, with the driver's side bumper making direct compact.

Amazon.com (AMZN) is denying a report that it wants to significantly expand its online video operation. The Wall Street Journal says the company is seeking deals with television channels to distribute their programs on a new Amazon pay TV service. The Journal says Amazon would like to offer a virtual cable TV channel. But up until now, TV channels have not been willing to share their content with web partners.

Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 44 points Tuesday, but the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rallied 28 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained 5 points.

And March Madness -- the NCAA basketball tournament -- may create even more madness than usual this year. Quicken Loans is teaming up with Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) (BRK-B) to pay $1 billion to anyone who correctly picks all of the tournament's 63 games. It's free to enter, but the odds of winning are much less than hitting the Powerball lottery.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.